Thursday, Jun. 15, 2006, 08:00 PM
HANOVER, Md. (June 16, 2006) -- More than 300 attendees, sponsors and exhibitors recently turned out for the National Automotive Finance Association's 10th Annual Non-Prime Auto Finance Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. In his opening remarks, NAF Association Chairman John Scordo, of Centrix Financial, highlighted the fact that the non-prime market has grown to a $260 billion industry and shows no signs of slowing down. He explained that the non-prime market is "The fastest growing segment of the auto industry ... expanding at twice the rate of the industry overall." According to Jack Tracey, the association's executive director, this year's event was designed to reflect the changes and challenges in the non-prime auto industry. In fact, change was the topic of the keynote address, Tracey said. Derrike Cope, a NASCAR driver and motivational speaker, stressed the importance of embracing change and perceiving it as a positive element in business. Topics covered at the conference included a presentation to help improve marketing efforts to the Hispanic population; a panel focused on the new Vantage Credit Score, which was developed by the three major credit bureaus; a speaker discussing how to use the Internet to generate sales leads; presentations covering the privacy and security of customer information; and a session on identify theft and ways to combat it. With the Canadian market expanding, association executives said it was important to offer attendees an overview of the auto and finance markets in the country and compare the trends discovered to those found in the U.S. market. As the conference just hit its 10th year, several speakers at the event reviewed the evolution of the non-prime market over the last decade, Tracey said. Amy Martin, of Standard & Poor's, also returned to the conference this year to provide her annual update on performance in the auto ABS market. Along with the update, she reviewed mergers and acquisitions, including other changing trends in the on-prime financing arena over the past 10 years. Meanwhile, Tom Webb, chief economist for Manheim, was on hand to offer attendees a look into past trends and share updates and predictions of used vehicle prices. Goldman Sachs representatives Daniel Pillemer and Philip Gitler led a discussion on investment banking activity in non-prime auto finance. Moreover, a panel of members from the NAF's legal committee updated attendees on recent legislation and regulations affecting the non-prime auto market. The executives held an open forum so attendees could ask questions on legislation and regulations that directly impact their businesses. Another highlight of the conference was a preview of the NAF Association's 2006 Non-Prime Automotive Financing Survey, which is conducted by BenchMark Consulting International. Key findings in the survey include increased portfolio dollars and the number of accounts, in addition to growth in dollars and the number of accounts in origination. Executives said the complete study will be published this summer.